Smart, Easy Ways to Prepare Your Home for Winter Now

As I was leaving the house at 7:30am, I noticed a definite chill in the air. I regretted my decision to walk out of the house wearing a sleeveless top, capris, and slip on shoes with no socks. 

The cooler morning temperatures reminded me that I wanted to share some simple things that you can do do prepare your home for the upcoming colder weather

These ideas will save you money (and may help protect your home against damage). 

Larry and I talk about these tips in detail and show examples of products that we recommend in this video.

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1) Get your furnace or heating system checked.

I know! This is one of those things you’d rather not do. I understand. But, a yearly contract with a local HVAC specialist has actually saved us money in the long run. They check every aspect of the furnace, change out the filter, and make us aware of any problems. Plus, if we do need service, we get a discounted rate, because we have a service contract with them.  

2) Turn off outside faucets and sprinkler systems and drain them.

We learned this lesson the hard way. After moving into our home, we forgot to turn off the water sources to exterior faucets. A hard freeze resulted in a back up of pressure on the pipes, causing a water leak in our ceiling. We paid several hundred dollars for a handyman to replace the damaged pipe.  

3) Check your gutters to be sure they are clean. 

Okay, you’re gonna want to do this more than once in the next few weeks. Trees will soon be shedding leaves faster than a toddler takes off his socks after you’ve just told him to leave them on his feet. 

There are actually multiple reasons that you want to be sure that leaves aren’t blocking your gutter. One is that during fall rainstorms, water can back up and flow over the tops, bringing a virtual waterfall down right at the foundation of your home, increasing the likelihood of water seepage into your basement.

The second reason is that a lack of water flow may contribute to ice dams. When ice is trapped at your roofline it can cause moisture to move into your attic space. 

4) Check your roof shingles, vents, and chimney. 

This simple step could save you thousands of dollars (or maybe even your life). It’s a good idea to periodically take a look at your roof. If you aren’t comfortable doing it, then ask a local roofer what they would charge you to do a roof check. Prices range from free to about $200. 

Years ago, the furnace in our rental home physically blew up while my husband as trying to light it. The home owner had a new unit installed. While inspecting the roof after replacing the home’s heating equipment, the HVAC specialist told us that he had discovered that the chimney of our rental home  was partially blocked when aging mortar gave way and some of the bricks fell into the chimney. 

He said it was an act of God that we had not perished of carbon monoxide poisoning. We agreed.  

5) Safety check and clean out your chimney flue or stove pipe.

This tip is for those of you with a fireplace or wood burning stove. Debris, animal nests, creosote, and soot can all cause a build up of carbon monoxide or start a house fire. If you don’t feel up to the task, it’s best to call in a professional to do the job. 

6) Check carbon monoxide and smoke detectors. 

Given my previous story about the carbon monoxide incident, it won’t surprise you that we are sticklers when it comes to regularly checking our monoxide and smoke alarms. We actually change the batteries every January 1st.

Whenever you choose to do it, pick a date on the calendar which is memorable to you and be sure to change out all the batteries and check your units. Remember, every ten years you need to update and change out all your detectors. 

7. Check windows and seal leaks.

People don’t realize that leaks around your window can mean much larger cold weather bills. In fact, the sum total of all those unknown gaps can be the equivalent of leaving an entire window wide open all winter long.

Follow these simple steps to look for leaks.

Open and close windows several times. Be sure they lock securely. Check the weather stripping and replace where necessary.

An easy way to check for leaks is to light a candle or a stick of incense and hold it near three specific places on the window:

  • where the frame meets the wall
  • where the window meets the frame
  • where the window sections intersect

Watch the smoke. Does it pull to one side? If so, you have a leak.

Clean the area of dirt and dust. Then, apply clear or paintable caulk or rope caulk to seal these areas. Rope caulk comes in a long roll and has the consistency of play dough. A popular name brand is Mortite. It is moldable and you can push it into cracks. Yet, it will peel right off without marring the surface or taking off paint. This makes it a great product for renters.

Finally, you can physically cover windows, using clear plastic window kits. Alternately, you can apply a thin film of water, cover it with a sheet of bubble wrap. The moisture will keep the bubble wrap in place, giving you an extra layer of protection against the cold. The bubble wrap doesn’t work well in living areas, in which you really want or need to see out of the window. However, in little used rooms or basement areas, it works great.

8. Check other areas for air leaks

Although windows are a primary culprit for air leaks, there are actually several (often overlooked) areas of your home, which also contribute to increases in your utility bills.

Begin in the basement, examining the joists, where the wall meets the wood frame of your home, sealing any gaps. While you’re down there, look for any places where wiring, ducts, or dryer vents exit your home.

Moving up to the main living quarters, be sure you have your fireplace properly closed off. If you have a whole house fan, you can purchase a magnetized, insulated cover that will prove quite helpful in keeping your hallway warm and lower the number of times your furnace cycles off and on.

Finally, replacing weatherstripping and adding a new threshold will keep the door shut tight and winter winds outside (and not leaking inside.)

9. Stock extra food, water, and supplies.

While it’s always a good idea to have a couple of weeks worth of food on hand, in winter it becomes even more important. In the event of a major snow storm, traversing streets can become very difficult or impossible.

Every autumn, I make sure I have up-to-date pantry and freezer inventory sheets, freeze excess garden produce, and do bulk buying of basic supplies like bean and rice.

Be sure to store your bulk buys in well-sealed containers and in cool, dry areas of your home.

I truly don’t like going out in winter any more than necessary. But the reality is that during winter the chances of power outages increases when snow storms rage through your town.

10. Make a list of emergency supplies and keep that list in a specific location of your home.

It is also wise to always have an up-to-date list of items in the pantry. If your water is supplied by a well, then remember that you will, most likely, not have access to water. So, keeping a 3-4 day supply of water on hand is a key concern.

Emergency supply list:

Need more ideas? 

I got you covered.

Request my FREE Home Energy Checklist. I walk you through each room of your house, giving you quick, easy, and (mostly) free ways that you can lower your energy usage. Click here or on the image below to request your free copy.

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